Before Chris Columbus took fans into the wizarding world of Harry Potter, Steven Spielberg almost had the reins in his hands. It would have been interesting to look at how the famed Jaws director would bring J.K. Rowling’s story to life. The first installment, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, came out in 2001 when Spielberg had already established himself as an in-demand filmmaker.
He was offered to helm the first Harry Potter movie, which would have turned his career in a very different direction. Still, he refused the project for something far more important to him. Despite feeling torn between choosing his career over his personal life, he does not regret one bit of his decision.
Steven Spielberg Reveals Why He Turned Down Harry Potter
In a previous interview with RRR director S.S. Rajamouli, Indiana Jones director Steven Spielberg opened up about the time he chose to turn down several projects and huge franchises at one point in his career. He spoke about the guilt he would feel if he decided to direct a promising film at the expense of family time. He shared via Reliance Entertainment:
“The personal meaning about [how the conflict between] art and family will tear you in half happened to me later, after I had already established myself as a filmmaker, as a working director. Kate [Capshaw] and I started raising a family, and we started having children. The choice I had to make was taking a job that would move me to another country for four or five months where I wouldn’t see my family every day… That was a ripping kind of experience.”
Spielberg was initially offered to oversee the first Harry Potter installment, but that would take away so much of his personal time as he had to move to another country to shoot for several months. The director continued:
“There were several films I chose not to make. I chose to turn down the first Harry Potter to basically spend that next year and a half with my family, my young kids growing up. So, I’d sacrificed a great franchise, which today looking back I’m very happy to have done, to be with my family.”
In retrospect, Spielberg managed to spend more time in Los Angeles with his wife and kids, and the Harry Potter film did an outstanding performance at the hands of Chris Columbus.
Did Steven Spielberg Choose The Right Decision?
Just because Steven Spielberg turned down a major movie offer to stay close to home did not mean he stopped working. In fact, he directed A.I. Artificial Intelligence (2001) during the same time Harry Potter was in development. The movie was predominantly set in Los Angeles, so it meant the director could come home after working for the day.
Chris Columbus, on the other hand, ultimately stepped down as director after helming two Harry Potter films. He revealed to The Hollywood Reporter that he was “emotionally and physically exhausted,” and he missed his children. The filmmaker confessed:
“I wasn’t seeing my kids, who were young at the time, growing up. I was missing dinners with them. I thought, ‘I can’t do another six, seven, eight years of this. My kids will grow up, and I’ll never get to know them.’”
After passing the torch to Alfonso Cuarón, Columbus transitioned as the franchise’s producer, which gave him a more flexible schedule between supervising the project and seeing his family. In the end, Steven Spielberg had made the right decision all along.
Harry Potter films are available to watch on Peacock.